HURRAY, the Champions League quarter-final draw is out and England is guaranteed a place in the last four.
Call it luck of the draw or the curse of the fixtures.
Among Europe’s top eight clubs, the Premier League leaders, Manchester City, have been drawn against Liverpool in a rare clash at the highest European level.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp joked it was a “dream draw for Manchester United fans” – suggesting only the historic rivals of Liverpool and City could be satisfied now one of the clubs will be eliminated.
City secured their place in the last eight by beating Basel, having won the away leg 4-0, but then lost 2-1 at home in the second leg. Liverpool saw off Porto in the round of 16, which also saw an impressive away performance with a 5-0 victory at the Estadio do Dragao ahead of a routine goalless draw at Anfield.
Anfield will host the first leg of the quarter-final tie, which will be played on April 3 or 4 with the second leg to be held on April 10 or 11.
Elsewhere in Friday’s quarter-final draw, holders Real Madrid were handed a tie against Italian giants Juventus, who beat Tottenham in the last round. La Liga leaders Barcelona will play Roma, while the reward for Sevilla’s victory over Manchester United was a date against Bayern Munich of Grmany.
The draw in full:
Barcelona v Roma
Sevilla v Bayern Munich
Juventus v Real Madrid
Liverpool v Manchester City
Few would have predicted a City versus Liverpool clash, not at this stage.
The league leaders won convincingly 5-0 at The Etihad earlier in the season – albeit the game was affected by the early sending off of Sadio Mane – but lost 4-3 at Anfield in January.
FIRST TIME MEETING IN EUROPE
It is the first time they have met in European competition and, from an English football perspective, at least guarantees further Premier League involvement in the semi-final.
The tie also promises to be a thrilling, attacking encounter given the style of both clubs. Recent meetings have been goal festivals.
City are pursuing their first European Cup while Liverpool are hoping to win the competition for the sixth time. They have never looked so equipped to go all the way. The last the Liverpool reached this stage in 2009 they also met English opponents, going out to Chelsea.
Not since Chelsea in 2012 has an English side won the competition, and that felt a little freakish. Last season, the only English quarterfinalist was Leicester City. The season before, the only one was Manchester City. The season before that, there weren’t any English quarterfinalists at all. In that sense, two sides in the quarterfinal and three more within touching distance represents progress, but the questions remain as to why is it so limited and why hasn’t it happened before?
Seven of the eight last-16 ties this season were won by the side with the higher revenue – a statistic that both highlights Manchester United’s failure against Sevilla and suggests that Chelsea’s defeat against Barcelona and Tottenham’s against Juventus shouldn’t provoke too much soul-searching. That said, the latest Deloitte Report into Football Finance shows not merely that United has the highest revenue of any club in the world but that five English sides are in the top 10 and 10 English sides in the top 20.
Looking at country-power, Spain are runaway leaders as for the sixth year running, three LaLiga sides have reached this stage of the competition. The Premier League, which had five representatives in the last 16, saw Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea crash out in the previous round, with only Manchester City and Liverpool left as England’s flag bearers.
ARSENAL IN TRICKY RUSSIAN TIE
Arsenal has been drawn against CSKA Moscow in the Europa League quarterfinals during very tense political moments.
British Prime Minister Theresa May announced the expulsions following the poisoning of Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter. The UK’s Foreign Office recently updated its travel advice to Britons visiting Russia, warning of the “possibility of anti-British sentiment or harassment at this time” due to “heightened political tensions.”
“You’re advised to remain vigilant, avoid any protests or demonstrations and avoid commenting publically on political developments,” say the Foreign Office’s website.
“While the British Embassy in Moscow is not aware of any increased difficulties for British people travelling in Russia at this time, you should follow the security and political situation closely and keep up to date with this travel advice.”
• Suresh Nair, looking at the Champions League draw, believes Manchester City may have a serious chance of making it to the final, keeping fingers crossed, too, on the upcoming semi-final draw